According to data released last week by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national construction industry added 19,000 jobs on net in March.
Press Release from Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)
WASHINGTON, April 1—The construction industry added 19,000 jobs on net in March, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. After 23 months of recovery, construction employment has at last exceeded pre-pandemic levels. On a year-over-year basis, industry employment has expanded by 220,000 jobs, an increase of 3.0%.
Nonresidential construction employment expanded by 11,300 positions on net, with all three subsectors generating growth. Heavy and civil engineering added 5,000 net new jobs. Nonresidential specialty trade contractors added 3,700 positions. Nonresidential building added 2,600 jobs.
The construction unemployment rate fell to 6.0% in March. Unemployment across all industries declined from 3.8% in February to 3.6% last month.
“Contractors continue to signal that they are searching far and wide for additional workers,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “With more workers reentering the labor market, job openings continue to translate into employment growth. Given elevated backlog and the expectation that demand for services will remain high, according to ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, construction employment is poised to grow further this year.
“Interestingly, the unemployment rate for construction workers is well above the economywide rate,” said Basu. “This is at odds with the notion of a severe worker shortage facing construction. The issue relates to skill sets. While many refer to the current circumstances as a labor or worker shortage, it is perhaps more properly characterized as a skills shortage.
“With infrastructure spending set to rise and construction workers retiring at a rapid rate, skills shortages are likely to worsen going forward,” said Basu. “That translates into rapid wage growth. Given high and rising materials prices, project owners will continue to see elevated bids for construction service delivery, although how this will affect project postponements and cancellations remains unclear.”
Press Release from Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)
Contractors Association Urges Washington Officials to End Tariffs on Key Materials, Increase Funding for Career and Technical Education, and Widen Apprenticeship Opportunities for Working in Construction
Construction employment climbed by 19,000 jobs between February and March, while spending on construction projects rose for the 12th month in a row in February, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government data released today. Association leaders warned that further gains may stall unless the supply of workers and materials improves. They urged officials to end tariffs on key materials and broaden training and education opportunities for construction careers.
“Construction is contributing significantly to the expansion of employment and the overall economy,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “But the sector is facing growing challenges in terms of filling job openings, obtaining materials, and keeping up with soaring wages and prices.”
Industry employment totaled 7,628,000 in March, topping the pre-pandemic peak set in February 2020 for the first time. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added 7,600 employees in March, and the sector’s employment exceeded the February 2020 level by 161,000 or 5.4 percent. Employment increased by 11,300 for the month among nonresidential firms--building, specialty trade, and heavy and civil engineering construction contractors--but remained 157,000 or 3.4 percent shy of the February 2020 mark.
Despite the recent employment increases, construction job openings at the end of February totaled 364,000, the largest February total, by far, in the 22-year history of that series, Simonson pointed out. Openings exceeded the 342,000 workers hired in February, implying that contractors wanted to hire more than twice as many workers as they were able to, he added.
Construction spending increased for the 12th consecutive month in February to $1.70 trillion, a rise of 0.5 percent for the month and 11.2 percent year-over-year. All three major subsectors posted year-over-year increases. Private residential construction rose 1.1 percent in February and 16.6 percent over 12 months. Private nonresidential spending edged up 0.2 percent for the month and 9.7 percent since February 2021. Public construction rose 1.5 percent from a year earlier despite slipping 0.4 percent from January to February.
Association officials said the industry will need to obtain materials on a more timely basis and hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers in order to execute projects that will soon be funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, on top of the continuing demand for homebuilding and private nonresidential structures. Officials urged Congress and the Biden administration to end lumber, steel, and other tariffs, increase funds for career and technical education, and support a wider range of apprenticeship and training opportunities.
“Contractors are doing their part to add employees and complete projects,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “But there won’t be enough materials or workers to go around if officials in Washington fail to allow more goods into the U.S. and prepare more jobseekers for these opportunities.”